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Giving Your Kid an Art Smart Edge in Southeast Michigan

Drawing and trips to the DIA in Detroit are just part of the puzzle. Learn cool ways parents can help children blossom creatively with cameras, paint and tons more

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Product design

Whether the product is a video game, vehicle or tennis shoe, a human being created it. Mikel Bresee, director of community partnerships at College for Creative Studies, says today's employers are hungry to hire creative thinkers.

"Kids these days spend way too much time interacting with prefabricated products. They're being put in the position as consumers of creativity instead of producers," Bresee says. "We need to flip that."

CCS invites students to explore its campus through Middle School Art and Design Career Discovery Tours – and offers one-day workshops for ages 6-12 and precollege programs for ages 13-19. Classes include digital design, comic book art, animation, video production and more.

At home, Bresee suggests parents foster their children's bent toward product design by asking them to sketch out new video game characters and environments, or design sneakers of their own.

"Then they'll realize that creating those things is something they could do if they wanted to, and make a very good living at it," he says.

Glass

Glassblowing obviously isn't safe for little ones to try, but it is awfully exciting to watch artists at work at their fiery ovens. Glass objects – from paperweights and ornaments to vases and drinking glasses – blend form and function in a medium many kids might not think of as art without your prompting. The Glass Academy at Furnace Design Studio in Dearborn hosts educational tours for scout groups and classrooms, as well as open events throughout the year.

The studio also offers an annual Holiday Celebration in Glass in early December. See live glassblowing demonstrations and shop handcrafted glass ornaments, candy canes, snowmen, Christmas trees and decorative bowls.

Carpentry

Do your children love building with LEGOs and blocks? Perhaps they have a penchant for construction. One way to help them explore working with their hands is through Kids Workshops at The Home Depot. All locations hold the free, hands-on sessions the first Saturday of each month, 9 a.m.-noon.

Designed for children ages 5-12, participants receive a free Kids Workshop apron, commemorative pin and certificate of achievement.

"Our Kids Workshops program teaches kids basic home improvement skills while helping to build confidence and instill a sense of pride and accomplishment," says Dorthanal Leonard, district manager for The Home Depot stores in metro Detroit. "It also provides a fun opportunity for kids and parents to spend time together – and the kids get to go home with their own craft project."

You also can create your own workshop at home by ordering The Home Depot's ready-to-assemble kits for bat houses, birdhouses, dollhouses and more ($8 and up).

Sewing

Working with needle, thread and fabric helps develop an appreciation of color, texture and three-dimensional design, says Toby Haberman of Haberman Fabrics in Royal Oak. Children are generally ready to begin sewing at age 8, and can do simple projects like stuffed animals or fleece mittens and hats.

"What's important when you're working with a child is that nothing is 'right' and nothing is 'wrong,'" she says. "There are honest ways of describing what a child has created to help them appreciate the elements they have used in their design."

Haberman Fabrics offers frequent weekend classes for kids, including hand-sewing sessions for ages 8 to 11.

Sewing builds coordination and can lead to careers in fashion design, interior design and even engineering, Haberman says.

"Anything you do creatively develops your mind and opens your mind and builds your self-confidence," Haberman says, "and with confidence you can do anything."

Music

If your student has a talent for playing music, or just loves to listen, there is more to music than meets the ear.

Axis Music Academy, with locations in Canton, Birmingham, Southfield and six other southeast Michigan spots, offers music exploration classes for youngsters and rock band opportunities for the older set. The school also teaches songwriting, production and music business management. As the only Apple-authorized training center in Michigan, Axis offers recording classes in software like Pro Tools and GarageBand for teens who aspire to be DJs or work behind-the-scenes in the business.

Axis founder John E. Antone says music helps build self-esteem, making kids less susceptible to bullying, peer pressure and other negative influences.

"We've seen students who have been suffering in school in different areas. Our instructors mentor the students, and they end up doing well," Antone says. "When kids are having a hard time talking to their parents or other students, we try to bring it out of them with music."

Painting

When most people think of art, they immediately picture painting – and, according to Art Road's Carol Hofgartner, this traditional medium is always a hit with kids. As founder and chair of Livonia-based Art Road, Hofgartner brings weekly art classes to 800 Detroit elementary students at schools where art has been cut from the curriculum. Through painting, children hone motor skills, learn to conceptualize and cultivate pride in their work.

She urges parents to provide opportunities for kids to paint at home, despite the mess.

"Children just love to paint. They love to mix the colors, and who cares in the end if it turns out to be brown? If they're using their hands, they're happy. To us it's all about the process of making art," she says.

Hofgartner believes art is essential to development, and offers valuable skills that can last a lifetime. "So many of our great companies are driven by artists and thinkers," she says. "Art is all around us."

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